Microfluidic Legos

Microfluidic devices are valuable tools in a lab, but they are difficult and time-consuming to manufacture. Researchers looking to simplify the building of such fluidic circuits have turned to toys. The uniformity and modularity of LEGO bricks makes them a promising platform for modifiable microfluidics. Using a micromilling machine, researchers cut narrow channels into bricks, then sealed the channel with clear adhesive and a set of tiny O-rings. Their results allow them to build and rebuild simple microfluidic devices in moments. There are limitations, though. Micromills cannot cut the smallest size channels used in today’s microfluidic devices, and the plastic of the LEGO bricks restricts the chemicals and temperatures scientists can use. Nevertheless, this could be a useful teaching tool and a new method for testing and prototyping microfluidic devices. (Image credit: MIT, source; research credit: C. Owens and A. Hart)

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